November, 14 2016 (BBC)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ruled out holding early elections amid calls from opposition groups for him to step down.
Speaking on his television programme, Mr Maduro said “nobody should get obsessed with electoral processes that are not in the constitution”.
His comment comes a day after the government and opposition groups agreed on a road map to resolve Venezuela’s political and economic crisis.
Mr Maduro’s term ends in early 2019.
Stalled recall referendum
The opposition blames Mr Maduro and his government for the dire state of Venezuela’s economy.
The country is suffering from sky-high inflation and there are shortages of many basic goods, including medical supplies.
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More than three-quarters of Venezuelans are unhappy with Mr Maduro’s leadership, according to a recent poll.
But an attempt by the opposition to organise a referendum to oust Mr Maduro from office has stalled after the electoral council said that courts in several states had reported fraud in the campaign’s preliminary petition.
The move caused outrage among opposition groups which then began to call for early elections as an alternative way to remove Mr Maduro from his post.
‘Way out where?’
But speaking on his weekly television programme on Sunday, the president asked: “An electoral way out? Way out to where?”
Negotiators for the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) and the government met on Friday for two days of Vatican-backed talks on how to end the political and economic crisis.
They released a joint statement in which they pledged to “live together in peace” and laid out a road map on how to defuse the situation.
While there was no mention of early elections in the joint statement, opposition lead negotiator Carlos Ocariz later announced that the MUD coalition would stay at the negotiating table only until it obtained early elections or a recall referendum.
After ruling out early elections, Mr Maduro mocked Mr Ocariz’s statement saying that “it makes me very happy that the MUD will continue in the dialogue until December 2018”.
December 2018 is when the next presidential election is due to be held if no early polls are called.
The next round of talks between the opposition and the government is scheduled for 6 December.
However, a number of opposition leaders have already called for protests, which had been halted as a sign of goodwill ahead of the talks, to resume.
The former opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, said that “the crisis is getting worse every day”.
“The talks don’t mean we have to renounce anything, the rights of Venezuelans can’t be bought or sold, we have to fight and fight until we succeed,” he added.